Convenience of 24/7 access 365 days a year, with no downtime for holidays or bad weather, has always acted as a growth catalyst for e-commerce. More so amid a pandemic when outdoor movement is restricted. However, in-store experience has a high social quotient that many customers still value. This paradoxical situation has prompted a section of the furniture industry to adopt omnichannel retailing through websites, apps, social media and physical stores.
“While customer footfall at physical stores plummeted in Covid times, e-commerce witnessed a double-digit growth. Reasons aplenty: Larger audience, better inventory management at lower costs and the ability to reach the farthest corners of the country,” said Nidhi Kapoor, the director and chief designer of ZAD Interiors, a technology-first company launched in 2019.
“We have been able to execute several projects in and outside Kolkata in the residential and hospitality sector, courtesy our readymade designs, online estimation tools and a virtual store. Customers can choose designs from a larger catalogue, generate estimates in a few clicks and finally buy items — all from the convenience of their homes,” Kapoor said, adding that contactless payments and fast-shipping services were also major driving forces in e-commerce.
Regardless of the degree of convenience an online store offers, can it substitute human interaction? No, feels Soumesh Das, store manager of DAMRO, Merlin Homeland. “A website or app cannot entirely replicate the skills of a salesperson and many customers still like a live demo,” he said.
Ashish Shah, co-founder and COO of Pepperfry, refuses to categorise their customer base into online and offline. “We have adopted an omnichannel model for a seamless shopping experience. While our online platforms allow us to showcase an exhaustive range of products, our physical studios help customers get an idea of the design, material, quality and finish of every piece with able assistance from our in-store consultants,” he said.
Ravi Nagar, Mobel Furniture showroom head at Merlin Homeland, couldn’t agree more. “On the retail landscape, both online and offline stores remain equally important. We have an extensive digital presence and yet believe it can never replace in-store customer experience,” he said.
Joozer Hussain, owner of Furniture Junction on VIP Road, sees it from another perspective. ““Despite social and sentimental advantages of physical stores, e-commerce is the future for low-end furniture,” he said.
Source: Times of India